August 17, 2016 Early Slate Pitching Thoughts
Good morning everyone! Was a big night for offenses last night, so I hope you were able to share in some of that! I’m going to be giving you my thoughts for the early slate here, and I hope to have time to do the main slate, as well. But we’ll see how that goes.
For now, though, let’s look at this early slate which includes two strikeout pitchers going at Coors! I love this slate, though it won’t be easy to pick! You’ve got 10 to pick from, so here goes…
The top option:
Chris Archer ($10,600): He’s the 2nd most expensive option, but far and away the best option in the early slate. Sports an elite K rate, gets a lot of ground balls, his a very nice SIERA of 3.56 and seems to have turned himself around after his early-season awfulness. And he gets to face the Padres who are pretty ugly against right-handers. If you’re playing a cash game, Archer probably needs to be on your roster. If you’re playing GPPs, it’s never that simple, but he’ll be a tough fade today.
The most expensive, but I still can’t get enthusiastic about him:
J.A. Happ ($10,900): I can’t seem to get Happ right. I see the consistently good results, and sometimes great results, and then I look up his peripheral stats, and I don’t get it. His SwStr% is 9.9%, which is good but not elite. His K% is 21.6%, which is good but nothing great. His walks are average. He gives up an average number of hard hits. His batted ball profile looks average. His SIERA is 4.12, which is, you guessed it, average. He just looks average or perhaps a touch better than average! Today, he gets to face the Yankees who have shown a bit of power lately but a few more Ks. Frankly, it’s an average matchup. The big issue is the price. He seems too expensive for cash games. For GPPs, everyone who wants to spend up will go Archer, so Happ will not be owned very highly. Still, though, I’m not enamored with the upside. If you are, fire away in GPPs!
Two guys at Coors—play one, fade one? Play both? Fade both?
Stephen Strasburg ($9,400) and Jon Gray ($5,700): This should be a fun matchup. You’ve got two of the best K guys in the business facing off against each other—at Coors. On paper, and in real life, Strasburg has the superior upside. He does more with his Swinging Strikes than Gray does, walks fewer, allows fewer hard hits, and does respectably well at Coors in his career. Gray is absolutely capable of pitching very well, even at home, but he is clearly in a tier behind Strasburg. It’s Coors, so tread carefully, but Strasburg is still in a decent spot.
A few more things to think on, though. Strasburg did get lit up against the Braves in his last start. It’s baseball, and things happen, but if that’s a sign of him hitting a rough patch, Coors is the last place you want to be pitching (to be fair, Gray has also stunk lately). Second, look at those prices! Strasburg is fairly priced, but Gray is awfully tempting at $5,700.
Bottom line: if you’re playing cash games, Strasburg isn’t a bad option given his price and upside. Gray is not. If you’re playing GPPs, I actually expect Strasburg’s ownership will be somewhat heavy. I expect no one to own Gray. There’s a ton of risk in taking the latter, but it’s a risk worth considering.
The game that will make you numb (?)—PIT/SF (Nova/Cain – get it?)
Ivan Nova ($6,300) v. Matt Cain ($5,500): I had to make a lame joke about this game because this is about the most uninspiring pitching matchup I can envision! I am literally numb to it, hence the bad joke. You’ve got Nova, and his extreme ground ball tendencies (coupled with a 37% hard hit rate!!) facing a pesky Giants team that doesn’t K. You’ve got Matt Cain, and his 25% line-drive rate (ouch!) against a fairly weak PIT team who has the offensive spark of the Giants (not a compliment), but with fewer walks and more Ks. Because of the periodic ineptness of both offenses, either one could make for a shot-in-the-dark GPP play (especially Cain who has rescued himself from the bread line after a miserable start). But make no mistake: neither guy is especially *likely* to have a great game.
Three boring but useful pitchers
Carlos Martinez ($8,100): This year, Martinez has been the poor-man’s J.A. Happ. He has somehow managed to keep his ERA low despite wholly underwhelming numbers. He doesn’t K as many as Happ, and he walks more, but he also doesn’t allow as many to be hit hard, and he’s got a very good ground ball rate. Two things set him apart a little bit today: (1) the hope that somewhere in there is the 2015 (and April 2016) version of Carlos Martinez; and (2) he gets to face the Astros. HOU did look at little more lively against Jaime Garcia last night, but they’ve been pretty woeful lately. They don’t do particularly well against ground ball pitchers, and they haven’t done particularly well in day games. I like this play for cash games, and I like it for GPPs with the K upside Houston offers.
Doug Fister ($7,500): On the other side, you’ve got Doug Fister, the consummate contact pitcher. Like Happ and Martinez, his results have far surpassed what his peripherals suggest they should be (ERA of 3.61, SIERA of 4.87). He has made a career out of pitching to contact, and this year, he’s been very effective. He certainly could keep that going today against the Cardinals. I’d caution you though: STL is the best road team in the majors and also does a great job at hitting contact pitchers. Fister, despite his general effectiveness, has been lit up by lefties. The top half of STL’s lineup will likely feature 3 of them (Garcia, Carpenter, Moss), and Piscotty and Peralta can also do some damage. Fister may be a stack target today.
CC Sabathia ($7,000): Sabathia thrives on his low hard-hit rate (24.3%, 4th best in MLB) and his low LD rate (17.1%, also 4th best in MLB). His SwStr% is a healthy 9.5%, but his K% is a subpar 18.1%, so he has some room to grow. Yet, he’s been curiously hittable (I guess it’s not so curious—he simply doesn’t throw hard anymore), and he walks too many. Now he gets a lineup full of power-hitting, patient righties against TOR. He’s still a crafty veteran, so he’s capable of shutting any lineup down if he’s having a good day, but I don’t particularly like this matchup for him.
…and the gas can.
Christian Friedrich ($5,800): By default, everyone will stack against him. The Rays just pummeled the Padres, clubbing 5 HRs, and Friedrich is certainly the weakest option going in the early slate. He walks over 9%, Ks under 17% (though that should be a touch higher given his 8.5% SwStr rate), gives up 32.3% hard hits, and is very beatable by righties. None of that is good. If you wanted a contrarian reason to pick him, it’s the matchup against the Rays. They are dangerous, of course (and on fire right now), but they also strike out a flat ton against lefties (25.3%, the highest in MLB). This is also possibly his last start before he’s shut down for the year, so #NarrativeStreet? Look, it’s not smart to pick him, but ownership will be really low, and TB can certainly improve a guy’s upside. So, at least look it over.
That’s all! Good luck today!